Exit polls give Georgian opposition an early edge

Associated Press
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Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili leaves a voting booth at a polling station in Tbilisi, Georgia, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. Voters in Georgia are choosing a new parliament in a heated election Monday that will decide the future of Saakashvili's government. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — Two exit polls gave the edge to the opposition coalition in Monday's parliamentary election, but they may say little about the final result and the governing party claimed it would retain its majority.

The polls conducted by Edison Research and Gfk were only as of 4 p.m., four hours before the voting stations closed.

They also registered only the vote based on party lists, used to elect 77 of parliament's 150 members.

The remaining 73 members are directly elected by majority vote in their constituencies, where President Mikhail Saakashvili's party is considered to have a strong advantage.

A spokeswoman for his party, Chiora Taktakishvili, said the exit poll data they have seen shows the two sides fairly even in the party vote but the president's United National Movement way ahead in the majority vote and retaining a firm majority in parliament.

The governing party, which has dominated parliament, is up against an opposition coalition led by Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire businessman who has posed the most serious challenge to Saakashvili since he came to power almost nine years ago.